Many dietary supplement manufacturers were relieved Saturday after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security issued new specific guidance about essential critical infrastructure workers related to the COVID-19, or coronavirus outbreak.
Version 2.0 was issued over the weekend and specifically carved out dietary supplement manufacturers—and a host of other industries—whose employees and operations can be considered exempt from the stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders sweeping many states.
Previous CISA guidance broadly protected many of these industries under more imprecise food or health related categories, so the added specificity was welcome for companies in the industries named.
“Most of our member companies wanted to stay open, and were staying open under the assumption that they were a part of either the food sector or the health care sector,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), in an interview. “What this does is it makes it clear. So if someone from state law enforcement should show up and ask, ‘Why are you open?’ they can directly point to the CISA guidance.”
Mister added, “When the first round of this memo came out, we were pretty confident that we would be included by inference … but it didn’t expressly say dietary supplements. You kind of had to read between the lines to read us into it.”
The revised guidance adds significant detail to the list of essential critical infrastructure workers, adding specificity to the larger health care, law enforcement, transportation and food and agriculture industries.
Makers of dietary supplements specifically were mentioned in the context of health care or public health companies, and listed with other industries like biotechnology, distributors of medical equipment, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, even tissue and paper towel products.
Other newly named protected industries ranged from grocery and pharmacy workers, to food manufacturers and suppliers, to animal and food testing, to sanitation and pest control workers.
The guidance letter specifically notes its recommendations ultimately are advisory in nature, and the list should not be considered a federal directive. Individual jurisdictions can add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.
“AHPA appreciates that dietary supplement workers are now specifically identified as ‘essential critical infrastructure' in this latest guidance from the Department of Homeland Security,” Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), is quoted as saying in a press release. “However … companies and workers should check state and local recommendations and directives in making status determinations for operations that qualify as essential critical infrastructure.”